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Alabama House approves bill banning abortion after 20 weeks

The Alabama House of Representatives [official website] voted 69-19 [roll call] Thursday to approve a bill [HB 18, PDF] that would ban abortion [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks of gestation, except in cases where the mother's life is at risk or she faces serious injury. The bill is based on evidence suggesting that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks [Reuters report] and would require doctors to measure the age of a fetus before performing an abortion. A doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the time limit would be subject to criminal prosecution for a felony, but there would be no penalty for the woman undergoing the procedure. The bill includes additional provisions allowing civil suits to be filed for "actual damages" against the doctor performing the procedure by a woman upon whom an abortion is attempted or performed, or by the father of the unborn child if an abortion is performed. The bill also allows various parties to pursue civil remedies:

A cause of action for injunctive relief...may be maintained by the woman upon whom an abortion was performed or attempted to be performed in violation of this act, by any person who is the spouse, parent, sibling, or guardian of, or a current or former licensed health care provider of, the woman upon whom an abortion has been performed or attempted to be performed in violation of this act, by a district attorney with appropriate jurisdiction, or by the Attorney General.
The bill protects the woman's anonymity in any court proceeding resulting from the proposed abortion law. The Alabama Senate [official website] will review the bill.

Alabama's House bill is part of a wave of acts passed by state legislatures since the November elections aimed at restricting abortions. On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate [official website] approved a bill [JURIST report] that would limit the availability of abortions after 20 weeks. A day earlier, the Idaho legislature [official website] gave final approval to a bill [JURIST report] that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks. Last week, the Iowa House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [JURIST report] that would prohibit doctors from performing late-term abortions in the state. Last month, the Kansas Senate [official website] approved legislation restricting late-term abortions, after the House of Representatives approved the measure [JURIST reports] in February. Bills proposing similar abortion restrictions were also approved last month in the Missouri House of Representatives and the Oklahoma House of Representatives [JURIST reports]. Also last month, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard [official website] signed into law [JURIST report] a bill requiring women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion.

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